This is our big overview of all the levels currently being worked on, for Part 2.
We want to make things very transparent to you, the players, the followers, to raise the curtain and let you know what’s our current progress, what to expect from these levels, what you’ll be going through as you flee City 17 and traverse the wasteland.
First part of the article is the map-by-map overview, with just some spoilers omitted.
After that we talk about our short-term plans.
As for “percentage done”... hopefully this will give you enough basis to make your own assumptions.
This is meant to be an honest, transparent overview, to no longer keep you in the dark (which is something beta mods tend to do a lot). Please keep in mind that these maps are often quite big, and even a 60% on a big map is... a lot. Plus, we’re joggling a lot of other things beside the levels (coding, making assets). We’ll get to talk about those sometime, too.
So, to the overview!
The Warehouses is your big break-out level right after the lab incident. Compare it to “Route Kanal”: you got the HEV suit, you’re on the run, and you soon get into all-out fighting with the metropolice for the first time.
In this map we challenged ourselves with building a number of alternate paths for the player and enveloping the scene into an expansive cityscape. The early greybox draft [pic. 1] went through some BIG changes, with location becoming much more enclosed, easier to navigate, less of just walking across vast expanses of concrete and asphalt.
This map is about 60% done. Geometry and lighting mostly finished, gameplay is early and basic, and it can be played from start to finish.
‘Warehouses’ isn’t based on any particular concept or level from the beta. It’s built from scratch.
This didn’t exist until mid July of this year. We felt there’s a “missing link” between Warehouses and Refinery (see below), so the idea of this map came up. A series of abandoned light-industry factories and associated buildings (some of them explorable).
It’s still very early in development, it can’t be normally played through.
Until Raising The Bar: Uncorrected Proof was found, the beginning part of early city escape chapter was a blank spot for us.
Old beta canals start right after you leave the city bounds, and for years we didn’t know you were ‘supposed’ to flee the city on a bus (with Barney and Kleiner) and crash into a canal.
We’re *not* doing the bus ride, for several reasons. It won’t fit the current flow of the maps, it’s just difficult to build overall, and our Citadel isn’t equipped to shoot plasma projectiles at you.
So, we’re filling in the blanks w/o existing references.
‘Workhouses’ also isn’t based on existing concepts or levels from the beta.
You escape into more xen-infested parts of city canals, but this won’t stop metropolice from hunting you down, and they use their heavier equipment in these parts.
This level has wild fauna - houndeyes, bullsquids, polyps, plus usual barnacles & headcrabs - as well as Combine units: metrocops and MP Elites. This makes room for a lot of “monster in-fighting”, which you may turn to your advantage.
This is one of the most complete maps, standing at roughly 75-80%, playable from start to finish, with most enemy encounters laid out and working as intended.
To escape from pursuers, you go underground, into your typical concrete sewers. These, however, are heavily overgrown with vibrant xen fauna (which doesn’t stop refugees from trying to settle in).
Current state of the map: very rough prototype. The beginning of it is roughly scripted, but the middle and end parts will need major effort. There’s some semi-finished geometry, but also a lot of simple block-out. Gameplay is unfinished, but it already includes action, puzzles, ambushes and drafts of explorable bits.
After this map, there will be at least two more - one dedicated to the Hydra, and another featuring the driveable APC (just that - we have no plans to include either Airboat or Jetski). But there’s nothing to show of those maps yet.
Last city-bound map, also the last Canals map. You’ve reached the Outer Wall of City-Seventeen - the great barrier which separates one of the finest remaining urban centers, from the desolate hellscape that lies ahead. Of course, you’re going to get behind that, and maybe make a big hole in it during your escape.
Currently, this map is just a visual prototype with a bunch of ideas attached to it. It won’t be huge or complicated, so we’re deferring it to a later time in favour of more difficult maps.
‘Outer Wall’ doesn’t have a strict predecessor/reference in the beta. However, the first map of Canals - canals_01 - features a big concrete wall surrounding C17; in various versions, you start either on top of it, or climbing out of the pipes within the footing of the wall. So, in a way, that served as our reference.
INTO THE WASTELAND
This map is your first big reveal of the world outside the city walls. We’re not going to spoil it, hence very limited preview.
Like Scrapland (see below), this map was a test bed for experimenting with NPC systems to create the illusion of a world independent from the player.
The monsters don’t spawn on cue just for you, there’s a lot of in-fighting, and things going off in the background to create an uncertain, anxious feel.
It is one of the more complete and playable maps, over 70% done, which is alot for its scale. It is also playable from start to finish.
After traversing the open landscape, you go lower, into a shallow canyon. Its depressed nature made it possible for some alien flora and fauna to establish itself. This way we can show a very destroyed, but also vibrant, weirdly lively place.
The canyon is more of a connective map, bridging the outskirts of City 17 to a more distant area known as the Scrapland (see below).
We showed this level previously in a media update, but since then we haven’t worked on it much, so it’s less than 50% done.
The vast scrapland is a place where no man has been for a long time. Xen wildlife is struggling for survival among ruins, scattered in some cataclysm long ago, buried under the sand.
Here we tested our systems and mechanics for a big wasteland map. Things like randomised spawns, NPCs interacting without waiting for the player, creature navigation across a vast space, but also not forgetting exploration rewards and little atmospheric setups here and there.
This map focuses on calm exploration, with most of it being optional. Currently, it is one of the most complete maps, standing at about 90%. Biggest concerns now are balance, optimisation, and minute visual touche ups.
‘Scrapland’ is one of wasteland levels that are not directly based on WC mappack, but rather inspired by concept art and descriptions. You could compare it to e3_depot or various seafloor maps, but it’s not meant to be a repetition of those levels.
Another big wasteland level, but with a different visual theme going on. While Scrapland (and Beach, see below) show the more dry, eroded, dusty kind of wasteland, Haven has rain, puddles of acidic water, it’s a dark and damp place. Even with some dead forests on its hills (every wasteland map in the beta has trees, by the way).
The gameplay for this map… is mostly all on paper. We know it’s going to be a pseudo-quest like gameplay, with going back and forth across the level, exploring, and visiting refugee outposts. The refugees themselves are trying to survive after the Combine bombed the nearby town.
Also, you’re getting close to the Depot - this level is the first to feature it on the skybox.
ELI’S HIDEOUT & JUNKYARD
After crossing the canals and the wasteland, you finally find yourself in a friendly place, in the company of Eli & Dog.
This map was already teased in our gallery, and yes, this is where the iconic slideshow takes place. The 2nd map - Junkyard - is the gravity gun tutorial level.
These two levels require a lot of scripting, dialogue and all the associated things. Visually and detail-wise, they’re pretty close to being done.
Also - yes, we’ll make a custom model for Eli. No, it won’t be the one - or similar to the one from Gamebanana!
Some slideshow frames:
Geographically, this map is bordering Haven, they both make up the former coast area near the (very) receded ocean. However, the beach has been more open to the elements, creating a lot of erosion, dust, and irregular landscape shapes.
The beach is more show than action at the moment. It lacks level transitions, it has some NPC spawns but not much, and you can drive around it in a Combine APC. We’ll be laying out prototype gameplay in the coming weeks.
Its key elements are open terrain, antlions & the Combine, some shipwrecks sinking into the sand, the lighthouse, and of course, the Depot.
The Depot interior is only a crude, concept art inspired piece. May as well say it’s 0% ready.
This will likely be the last chapter we’ll get to work on.
While our Depot is standing atop some older prison structures, we won’t be spending a lot of time in the prison - most of it was replaced by Combine structures, we’re not going to fight our way through whole cellblocks and the like.
Part 2 ends as you depart the Depot on the last train, heading to the Air Exchanger facility.
‘Depot Interior’ will be based on older WC mappack designs, such was wasteland_depot_inside.
SHORT TERM PLANS
There’s a number of paradigms regarding level design, and game building, and they’re often recommended to mods, too.
Build gameplay before building visuals; do quick blockouts rather than complex foundations; test fast and fail fast; that it is better to have a chain of half-ready but playable maps, than to have a few big, ready levels but not having them connected to anything.
Naturally, we (or rather, I) didn’t follow them closely, or sometimes not at all. Currently we have the exact opposite of that last paradigm: we have several huge, impressive levels, but you have to load them through the console, and sometimes even noclip around. And some of them are expansive, scenic… and there’s not a lot to do on them.
So, our short term goals are:
1) Link the levels that we have, form chains you can run through - get through the canals, get through the wasteland. Have it so that the player can go through the levels - unfinished as they are - in one go, make sure it’s stable enough.
2) Pause with the more finished levels and their gameplay. Develop prototype gameplay on those levels that have none or very little of it (like Haven, Canyon, Outer wall, Workhouses).
IT’S TAKING SO LONG, WHY?
Most of these levels - save for Workhouses and most of Under - were put into motion in Q1-Q2 2018.
It may seem like we should have more on our hands now, but here’s the thing - these last 6-7 months, since January 2019, we mostly worked on the updated Part 1 maps. The 1.2 Update we recently released.
Working on Part 2 is important, but it was also important to us to have a better, fresher version of Part 1 that people can play. That they wouldn’t have to play the 2017 release anymore.
We were going to pack the updated maps with Part 2 anyway, when it would release, but then we decided to get them done and released separately. And we did, although it took a couple more months than initially planned.
Right after 1.2, basically with no delay, we thrust ourselves again into working on Part 2 maps, new creature AI, models, and other systems.
THIS IS ALL FOR NOW
Once again, we have a Discord - Discord.gg
You can communicate your thoughts, comments, questions either on that Discord, or here in the comments.
Till next time!